Farmers under the Goronyo irrigation project in Sokoto state have said that there is abject poverty in the state caused by corrupt government officials and unrealistic government policies that do not allow most government palliatives to get to the poor and low income earners in the state.
The farmers who spoke to Daily Trust through the leader of the irrigation farmers in Goronyo, Sarkin Noma Musa Makeri Takume, said out of the over 3,000 farmers working on the over 10,000 hectares of irrigation farms under the Goronyo irrigation project, none was given a single bag of fertilizer, improved seeds or insecticides by either the state or federal governments throughout the farming period.
“There is nothing more devastating to a farmer than denying him access to fertilizer, improved seeds and other farm inputs and implements. The government said on the state radio that his administration has provided enough fertilizer and seeds to all the farmers in the state. No single farmer under the Goronyo irrigation project got a single bag of fertilizer or seed from government in the state. If any were meant for them, corrupt officials might have diverted them.
“Framers were left with the option of either selling the grains they have in stock for the feeding of their family to buy fertilizer and seeds then go hungry for the rest of the farming season, or not to farm at all. That was the situation we found ourselves. The state government has not been doing anything to help us as poor farmers that labour to feed others,” he said.
But Sokoto State Commissioner for Agriculture who has just been moved to the ministry of environment in a recent cabinet reshuffle, Dr. Jabbi Kilgore said through the activities of corrupt officials who may want to divert the implements cannot be totally ruled out, both state and federal governments have allocated fertilizer and seeds to Goronyo farmers.
“I am aware that the state government released 12 trailers load of fertilizer and large quantity of vegetable seeds to Goronyo local government. The assorted fertilizes were sold to the farmers at N1,700 to N1,800 per bag. The fertilizers were handed over to Goronyo local government. This is different from the 15 trucks load of fertilizer provided to Goronyo local government by the federal government.
“Each local government has a committee that distributes the commodity to the farmers including Goronyo local government. The committee comprise of the local government chairman, traditional rulers, security officials and elected councilors,” he said.
Another farmer, Alhaji Shuaibu Gada, said officials of the Sokoto-Rima River Basin Development Authority (SRRBDA) who manage Goronyo Dam have been assisting in ensuring that there is always enough water for the irrigation farming and the agric extension officers always assist them with technical and professional advice.
“Our livestock also graze around the dam but we do not have access to veterinary doctors and medicine. The state government could not provide that for us. There is no form of assistance we are receiving from the state government. The neglect of the entire irrigation farmers by the state government has worsened our case. An average irrigation farmer is a very poor person now because we have refused to hike the prices of our products so that people can afford to feed themselves,” he said.
An onions farmer in the area, Malam Abbas Gidan Madi, said there is little or no gain in farming onions because no help is coming from the state government, adding, “we have fertile land here for the farming of onions but we spend a lot to farm because of lack of assistance from the state government. When you buy fertilizer through a third party at about N7,000 a bag and you sell a bag of onions at N300 during the peak, you are actually operating at a loss. That is the situation caused by lack of preservation facility.
“The irrigation farmers here are actually in abject poverty. We are into double cropping. We farm in the wet and dry seasons yet we can hardly change our clothes in a year due to lack of assistance from government. If the state government is allocating fertilizer and other implements in our name, then state officials are diverting those things,” he said.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its recent annual report rated Sokoto as the poorest state in the country which the state government denied, saying the report is mischievous. A media aide to Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of the state, Mr. Sani Umar, said the state government is implementing laudable policies capable of raising the standard of living of the people of the state.